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See also: gh, GH, , and .gh



Continues Arabic ع(ʿ) and غ(). The two phonemes were merged into /ʕ/ around Valetta since at least the 18th century, but continued to be distinguished as /ʕ/ and /ʁ/ elsewhere (in some rural dialects into the 20th century). The merged /ʕ/ soon also began to be vowelised, at first in the syllable coda, though word-finally after stressed vowels it underwent devoicing to [ħ] instead.


  • (phoneme) IPA(key): /-/, /ː/, /ˤ/, /ɛ/, /ɔ/, /j/, /w/, /ħ/


(upper case )

  1. The ninth letter of the Maltese alphabet, called ajn and written in the Latin script.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In contemporary Maltese, remains a true consonant [ħ] in word-final position (maqtugħ [maʔˈtuːħ]) and in the cluster -għh-, which becomes [ħħ]. Otherwise it is silent or leaves at most a vocalic trace:
    • Following and preceding a, e, o are lengthened if stressed: għodwa [ˈɔːdwa], nagħġa [ˈnaːdʒa].
    • Following i, u become diphthongs: bgħid [bɛjt], jistgħu [ˈjɪstɔw].
    • In intervocalic position it is a glide, [j] after i, ie, and [w] after u: qiegħed [ˈʔɪːjɛt], maqtugħa [maʔˈtuːwa].
    • The (always stressed) sequence -iegħ- becomes [ɛː] when followed by a consonant: qiegħda [ˈʔɛːda].
    • Vowels adjacent to may also be laryngealised in very conservative accents, thus alternatively [ˈɔˤːdwa], [bɛˤjt], etc., for the above.
  • After unstressed a, word-final is most often lost and then represented by an apostrophe: jisma' [ˈjɪsma]. It resurfaces when an ending is added to the word: jisimgħu [jɪˈsɪmɔw]. The only exceptions are the verb endings -ajt, -ajna, -ajtu, and -x, before which vowelised is simply dropped in the spelling: smajt [smajt], jismax [jɪsˈmaːʃ].
  • Phonotactically, word-initial now generally behaves like a vowel, allowing contractions such as m’għandix [manˈdiːʃ]. However, word-internal still behaves like a (virtual) consonant. Compare the aforementioned jisimgħu, where the vowel i has been added before the m, as though the latter were followed by a consonant.

See also[edit]